BBC journalist is freed in Myanmar days after being detained

BBC journalist is freed in Myanmar days after being detained

March 22, 2021

BBC journalist is freed in Myanmar days after being led away by men in plain clothes as five more people are killed in military crackdown

  • Aung Thura had been detained while reporting outside a courthouse on Friday 
  • The BBC had said it was ‘extremely concerned’ but now says he has been freed 
  • Forty journalists have been arrested since the Feb 1 military coup, the BBC says

A BBC journalist who was detained during the ongoing military crackdown in Myanmar has been freed, the corporation said today.  

Aung Thura had been led away by men in plain clothes while reporting outside a courthouse in the capital Naypyitaw last Friday. 

The BBC had said it was ‘extremely concerned’ about the Burmese Service journalist after being unable to contact him following his detention, amid a wave of violence which saw at least five more people killed over the weekend. 

But BBC News said today that he has now been released, giving no further details but adding that 40 journalists have been arrested since last month’s military coup.   

Aung Thura, a journalist for the BBC’s Burmese service, was detained by men in plain clothes while reporting outside a courthouse in Myanmar on Friday but has since been released 

The ruling generals have unleashed deadly violence on protesters who have risen against the military’s ousting of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month.

More than 2,600 people have been arrested and 250 killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) a local monitoring group. 

A crackdown on the media has seen newsrooms raided and news outlets having their licenses revoked by the military, the Committee to Protect Journalists says. 

Aung Thura was one of two journalists detained on Friday when plain-clothes operatives got out of an unmarked van and demanded to speak to them. 

The second journalist, Than Htike Aung, had previously worked for Mizzima News which was one of the outlets to be stripped of its licence earlier this month. 

The pair had been covering legal proceedings against Win Htein, a detained senior official from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. 

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been in custody since the February 1 coup and faces a serious of charges that her supporters say are spurious. 

Protests continued today despite the crackdown, with scores of people marching through the country’s second-largest city of Mandalay before dawn on Monday. 

Aung Thura, top, walks among demonstrators during a protest last month in Naypyitaw, where he was detained on Friday along with another journalist 

Mandalay has seen some of the worst violence of the crackdown and recorded at least four more deaths on Sunday, with several others injured. 

Some protesters carried placards calling for UN intervention after machine guns rang out late into the night across the city of 1.7 million.

‘People were really scared and felt insecure the whole night,’ one doctor in Myanmar told AFP by phone.

Doctors and monks have registered their anger by lining up signs in the street in what have been described as ‘placard-only’ demonstrations.   

There were also early-morning protests in parts of Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital, where drivers honked their horns in support of the anti-coup movement. 

Residents in Yangon’s Hlaing township released hundreds of red helium balloons with posters calling for a UN intervention to stop atrocities, according to local media.

One man was also killed during daytime clashes with security forces in the central city of Monywa on Sunday and hundreds turned out to protest a day later.  

People look at burning debris during a protest in Mandalay on Sunday with protests and violence continuing seven weeks after the coup 

International concern has been growing over the junta’s brutal approach as the death toll climbs, with a senior UN expert warning the military is likely committing ‘crimes against humanity’. 

In a fresh bid to step up pressure, EU is expected on Monday to hit junta operatives with sanctions in the form of travel bans and asset freezes.

‘The number of murders has reached an unbearable extent, which is why we will not be able to avoid imposing sanctions,’ German foreign minister Heiko Maas said. 

The United States and Britain have already taken similar steps.

Myanmar’s regional neighbours have also weighed in, with Indonesia and Malaysia calling for an emergency summit of Southeast Asian nations. 

But so far the generals have shown little sign of heeding calls for restraint as they struggle to quell the unrest.  

On the commercial front, French energy giant EDF announced that a $1.5-billion hydropower dam project in Myanmar had been suspended in response to the coup.

Meanwhile Australia and Canada have confirmed they are providing consular assistance to two business consultants detained in Myanmar. 

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